It was the fast-flowing river that doomed the inhabitants of Tula Toli.
Snaking around the remote village on three sides, the treacherous waters allowed Burmese soldiers to corner and hold people on the river’s sandy banks.
Some were shot on the spot. Others drowned in the current as they tried to escape.
Zahir Ahmed made a panicked dash for the opposite bank, where he hid in thick jungle and watched his family’s last moments.
“I was right next to the water,” he recalled in an interview a week later at a refugee camp in neighbouring Bangladesh, his eyes bloodshot and his shirt stained with sweat and dirt.
Ahmed said teenagers and adults were shot with rifles, while babies and toddlers, including his youngest daughter, six-month old Hasina, were thrown into the water.
He cried as he described seeing his wife and children die, meticulously naming and counting them on both hands until he ran out of fingers.
More than 160,000 of Myanmar’s 1.1 million ethnic Rohingya minority have fled to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories that they say describe ethnic cleansing.
During interviews with more than a dozen Rohingya from Tula Toli, the Guardian was told of what appeared to be devastating carnage as Myanmar’s armed forces swept through the village on 30 August and allegedly murdered scores of people.
Those who escaped fled to the hills in the west to make the three-day trek to Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh. The rest were buried in a mass grave, villagers said.
Myanmar, where the majority of people are Buddhist, has blocked access to the area, meaning the Guardian cannot independently corroborate the villagers’ accounts.
Many of the interviews were conducted separately over two days, however, and the villagers confirmed details of each other’s statements without prompting.